Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Dharma-Eye: Buddhas and Ordinary Beings

The Dharma-Eye: Buddhas and Ordinary Beings

According to Dogen, "Buddhas" and "ordinary beings" are distinct insofar as the former are "enlightened about delusion" while the later are "deluded about enlightenment." This distinction recognizes the real differences between awakened and unawakened beings; it does not, however, imply a real separation between Buddhas and ordinary beings.

To see reality with the Dharma-Eye is to see through it (by means of it). Dogen quoted the Buddha and commented as follows:

Shakyamuni Buddha once said in verse:

If any people give voice to this Discourse

Then they will surely be able to see Me.

But to express It for the sake of even one person

Is indeed something difficult for them to do.

So it follows from this that to be able to express the Dharma is to see Shakyamuni Buddha because, when 'such a one' comes to see 'Me', he is Shakyamuni Buddha.
~Shobogenzo, Gyobutsu Iigi, Hubert Nearman

From the unawakened perspective, Buddhas and ordinary beings are separate entities, from the awakened perspective, Buddhas and ordinary beings are nondual (not two). According to Dogen the apparent gap between the reality experienced by Buddhas and the reality experienced by humans is but a misperception of reality.

Even if we misunderstand that it might be beyond the triple world, that is completely impossible. Inside, outside, and middle, beginning, middle, and end; all are the triple world. The triple world is as the triple world is seen, and a view of something other than the triple world is a mistaken view of the triple world. While in the triple world, we see views of the triple world as old nests and see views of the triple world as new twigs. The old nests were visions of the triple world, and a new twig is also a vision of the triple world.
~Shobogenzo Sangai-yuishin, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

In contrast to some contemporary Zen teachers, Dogen says the (triple) world (the world we inhabit) is as it is seen. He does not say that the real universe is not as it is seen, or that it is "as it is" regardless of how it is seen - the real universe is as it is seen. If a being sees a body of water, the real universe is a body of water; if another being sees the same aspect of the material world as a palace, the real universe is a palace.

To speak in general, what people see as a mountain or as water differs in various ways. There are those who, upon catching sight of what I am calling 'the Water', see It as a string of pearls, but they fail to see such a necklace as the Water. They undoubtedly consider the form in which we humans perceive something as what the Water is. What they see as a pearl necklace, I see as the Water. And there are those who see the Water as a wondrous flower, but this does not mean that they are using an actual flower for the Water. Hungry ghosts, upon encountering the Water, may see It as a raging inferno, or as thick, congealing blood. Dragons and other denizens of the deep may see It as a palace or as a stately mansion. Some may see It as the Seven Treasures or as the Wish-fulfilling Jewel, and others as various sorts of trees, or as fences and walls, and others as the immaculate, liberated Dharma Nature, and others as someone's True Body, and others as someone's physical appearance along with that person's mental nature. When humans see the Water via any of these means, this can be the cause of their liberation from commonplace 'life'.
~Shobogenzo,Sansuikyo, Hubert Nearman

The reality of the universe is not something inherent in "what is seen," the reality of the universe is "as it is seen.” There is no reality of the universe existing behind what is experienced by us.

Therefore, to see something as "other than" the real universe (the triple world) is to see a real mistaken view of the world; that is, to see the real universe as a "mistaken view" of the real universe as it is. If a being mistakenly sees Buddha, for example, as "other than" their self, the real universe is truly seen as a mistaken view of Buddha (as well as self). A Buddha ancestor is "enlightened about delusion" because she "clearly sees" the real universe as the real universe, the unawakened being is "deluded about enlightenment" because she "mistakenly sees" the real universe as something other than the real universe.

The distinction between awakened beings and unawakened beings is the distinction between the "normal (healthy) mind" and the “abnormal (deluded) mind.” The mind of the Buddha is normal because it harmonizes with the true nature of reality. When Zen masters say the Buddha cannot be found outside our minds, they are transmitting the truth that Buddhas and demonstrate (or exemplify) the liberating potential inherent in all beings – as Buddha can only be realized within ourselves, so only through the demonstration of Buddhas can we see how Buddha is realized.

A person who has got the Dharma is one individual true eternal buddha here and now, and as such should not be met as someone from the past... As regards attainment of the truth, both [men and women] attain the truth, and we should just profoundly revere every single person who has attained the Dharma. Do not discuss man and woman. This is one of Buddhism's finest Dharma standards.
~Shobogenzo, Raihai-tokuzui, Gudo Nishijima & Mike Cross

According to Dogen, Buddha-nature is the totality of existence-time, it is each dharma and all dharmas; no element, experience, or being lacks Buddha nature. Thus, attempting to stifle, dampen, cut out, or eradicate specific aspects, elements, or qualities of the world or the self is not only a denial of humanity, but a denial of Buddha-nature. Such denial can only be achieved by an avoidance of reality – much better, according to the Zen masters, to achieve “normality” by activating the Dharma-Eye that sees, experiences, expresses, and actualizes the wisdom and compassion of Buddhahood.

Peace, Ted

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